There has never been more hope for children with profound hearing loss. We have more options in sophisticated hearing aid technologies to improve the hearing and quality of life for children with hearing loss than ever before. Superb advances in hearing aid technologies have been made in the past decade. Most children with hearing loss are fit with two hearing aids to give balanced hearing in both ears and to allow them to pinpoint the location of a sound or conversation. Wearing two hearing aids provides better sound clarity and word recognition in noisy listening environments.
Programmable digital hearing aids are available in high power models to allow the audiologist to give the child access to the wide range of sounds necessary to develop spoken language skills. Hearing aid programming software and real ear measurement equipment allow the hearing aids to be individually customized to optimize the hearing aid fitting for the child and to assure the speech signal is delivered at the most appropriate listening levels.
The goal of digital hearing aids is to deliver soft sounds at an audible level, average speech at a comfortable level, and loud speech at louder (but not uncomfortable) levels. Some children with profound hearing loss use various forms of visual language (sign language or cued speech) while they are developing their spoken language skills. Most children with hearing aids can significantly benefit from an FM system. The FM system helps to overcome some of the challenges of listening in background noise, at distances, and rooms with poor acoustics.
If a child is making slow progress developing spoken language, cochlear implants are another excellent alternative. An evaluation by a cochlear implant center team (cochlear implant surgeon, audiologist, speech-language pathologist, developmental psychologist, and other team members) can determine if this option is potentially beneficial.
The following websites provide useful educational resources for parents:
Alexander Graham Bell Association: www.agbell.org/
Oral Deaf Education: www.oraldeafed.org/
John Tracy Clinic: www.jtc.org/
Auditory-Verbal International: www.auditory-verbal.org/
American Academy of Audiology: www.audiology.org
American Speech, Language, and Hearing Association: www.asha.org